Nostalgia’s Revenge: Dirty Dancing Through The Wonder Years––On Cassette Tape!

by | Jul 26, 2021 | Nostalgia's Revenge | 0 comments

Welcome back to another installment of Nostalgia’s Revenge! This month, we’re taking a look at original motion picture soundtracks. But not just any OSTs. We’re talking original movie scores and soundtracks on tape!

Speaking as a child with both feet planted firmly in the tarmac of the eighties and nineties, cassette tapes hold a very special place in my heart. I can still fondly recall not having the money to actually buy music, so my dad would go to our local Pathmark next door to our four-story walk-up and buy some TDK and Maxell blank cassettes. I’d spend hours sitting in front of my trusty Panasonic SG-D16 like a song hunter, waiting for a tune I loved to cut through the FM band. Once I heard the opening riffs, I’d press the record and play buttons and trap the elusive song on that magnetic strip for countless replays, all at a quarter of the cost.

To this day, I can still remember every word that the DJs spoke when they introduced and closed out each of the songs I gathered together on numerous mix tapes during those fateful years because those words were caught on tape, too.

Thinking back, I can’t be 100% sure what the first cassette I ever bought was, but I know it was either the Guns N’ Roses single “You Could Be Mine,” which I bought solely because it featured Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-500 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day, or Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.” By the time I began selling off my collection at various stoop sales through the years, I had some pretty stellar albums from visiting music stores, flea markets, and thrift shops all across North Jersey and New York City, and even as far away as Phoenix, Arizona, where the picking and the prices are prime.

Cassette Tape Soundtracks

Cassettes have been making quite a strong comeback in recent years. At my local music store one town over from me, they’re selling for $10 a pop. I first stumbled on tapes through a crowdfunding campaign for a film called The Rise of the Synths, a documentary about synth wave and the movement surrounding it. The filmmakers offered the OST on CD and cassette as rewards. I didn’t back the campaign, though afterward, I did pitch in for a companion album they released. Opening up that clear plastic case and unfolding the liner notes brought me back, right to the albums of my youth. 

Since then, I began noticing cassettes everywhere, from flea markets and garage sales to other crowdfunding campaigns. I started snatching them up, so long as they weren’t stickered at the same price they were back in the day at Sam Goody. Luckily, I was finding them for dirt cheap, and at 25¢ to $1 each, why not nab as many as I could find? Then I started focusing my attention on classic movie and television soundtracks almost exclusively. Maybe it’s the filmmaker in me, but I found Top Gun and Dirty Dancing (it doesn’t get more classic than these babies!) at a garage sale a few towns away for a quarter a piece; The Wonder Years I discovered at a flea market alongside Pretty Woman and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. At an estate sale deep in the swamps of New Jersey was where I dug out a pristine copy of the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack (I don’t think the folks running it even charged me for it), and most recently, I scored the Twin Peaks soundtrack which ran me up a whopping $5, but when do you ever see a Twin Peaks OST on tape?! I had to have it!

Why movie and TV soundtracks, you ask? I honestly don’t know. I’m certainly a big fan of Top Gun as much as the next nostalgiac, and I’ve watched every episode of The Wonder Years since the pilot aired and introduced us to Kevin Arnold and his family in 1988. But I was never much a fan of Beverly Hills Cop (48 Hours and Lethal Weapon were more my speed when it came to buddy cop pictures), so it all seems quite random with regard to which tapes I buy and which ones I pass on. And, of course, I also buy the occasional non-OST cassettes, like Debbie Gibson’s Out of the Blue (a wonderful little album––if you haven’t listened to it for a while, give it a go) and a few others from random Kickstarters, though I end up listening to them once and selling them shortly after. But not my soundtrack albums. There’s just something about that iconic poster art from the films and shows I grew up with as a kid, shrunk down into a very compact format. There’s something about seeing those oh-so-eighties-and-nineties titles. Something about slipping out those liner notes from the usually cracked plastic cases and unfolding them to read (with a magnifying lens these days) all the song titles and credits. Yeah, I guess it must be the filmmaker in me.

Thanks for reading this month’s edition of Nostalgia’s Revenge! I’m curious––what’s your favorite movie soundtrack album? Did you own it (and do you still), and if so, what format? 

Next month, we’ll be blasting off for a look at my new, seemingly undying obsession with the master of science-fiction, Isaac Asimov, and how his Foundation novels are the actual foundation for Trek, Wars, and every other Star-studded sci-fi we grew up with as a kid. See you in thirty!

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